More and more I’m thinking that line plots are great. More specifically, two-way grids of line plots on common scales, with one, two, or three lines per plot (enough to show comparisons but not so many that you can’t tell the lines apart). Also dot plots, of the sort that have been masterfully used by Lax and Phillips to show comparisons and trends in support for gay rights.
There’s a big step missing, though, and that is to be able to make these graphs as a default. We have to figure out the right way to structure the data so these graphs come naturally.
Then when it’s all working, we can talk the Excel people into implementing our ideas. I’m not asking to be paid here; all our ideas are in the public domain and I’m happy for Microsoft or Google or whoever to copy us.
P.S. Drew Conway writes:
This could be accomplished with ggplot2 using various combinations of the grammar. If I am understanding what you mean by line plots, here are some examples with code.
In fact, that website is a tremendous resource for all things data viz in R.